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Future is not looking good for thorium nuclear reactors

the millions in subsidies thorium will require to become commercially viable would be better spent on solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.

Can Thorium Offer a Safer Nuclear Future?  Thomas net by David Sims.    

Nuclear energy has numerous advantages, but there are drawbacks as well: nuclear waste poses a significant environmental threat, meltdowns are a possibility and nuclear materials can be used to create weapons of mass destruction.

However, advocates of using thorium as a nuclear fuel instead of uranium point out that it solves many of these problems……. (unsuitable for nuclear weapons, wastes last less long, can’t melt down )

If it’s so great, why aren’t we using it?  When nuclear power was being developed in the 1950s, it was part of a broader Cold War strategy. Governments were paying for the research and it was in their interest to develop uranium as the primary nuclear fuel because it could also be used in weapons development.

However, critics of the thorium alternative point out that it’s more expensive than uranium because it can’t sustain a reaction by itself and must be bombarded with neutrons. Uranium can be left alone in a reaction, while thorium must be constantly prodded to keep reacting. Although this allows for safer reactions (if the power goes out it simply deactivates), it’s a more expensive process.

Thorium is a popular academic alternative: in the lab it works well, but it hasn’t been successfully — or profitably — used on a commercial scale yet.

Current Usage of ThoriumIndia is the market leader in trying to harness thorium for the energy grid. It has the largest proven thorium reserves and the world’s only operating thorium reactor, Kakrapar-1, a converted conventional pressurized water reactor. China is working to develop the technology as well, while the United States, France and Britain are studying its viability.

Flibe Energy, which is based in Huntsville, Alabama, recently noted the company is looking to establish a liquid fluoride thorium reactor in the U.S. within the next decade, with Wyoming as a possible location.

Proponents of renewable energy concede that thorium is preferable to uranium, but argue that the millions in subsidies thorium will require to become commercially viable would be better spent on solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.

While nuclear advocates are more hospitable to thorium, they are hesitant to put all their eggs in one basket at this point. The element hasn’t shown itself to be feasible as a profitable commercial energy source, whereas uranium has. Despite a history of reactor meltdowns and near-meltdowns, there’s a renewed emphasis on nuclear power in the world today, and nuclear industry advocates don’t see now as the time to try an unproven alternative.

The bottom line is that when it comes to thorium versus uranium, thorium is more abundant, as well as cleaner and safer, but given current capabilities, it produces more expensive energy than uranium and still leads to environmental waste issues.

Thorium could be part of the answer to the world’s energy needs, but it currently lacks a track record of cost-effective energy generation. In the meantime, nations like China and India are taking the lead in developing thorium-based nuclear systems.


February 23, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, technology, thorium | Leave a comment

the nuclear lobby’s dream of small modular nuclear reactors is not likely to come true

The quest for boundless energy, Adrian ChoSee all authors and affiliations

Science  22 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6429, pp. 809
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6429.809  


For all their innovations, NuScale Power’s small modular reactors remain conventional in one way: They would use ordinary uranium-based reactor fuel that’s meant to be used once and safely disposed of. But for decades, nuclear engineers envisioned a world powered by “fast reactors” that can breed an essentially boundless supply of plutonium that can be reprocessed into fuel. Early in the atomic age, experts believed nuclear energy would one day supply most of the world’s power, raising the specter of a uranium shortage and boosting interest in fast breeder reactors.

However, the reactors are complex and must be cooled with substances such as liquid sodium or molten salt. The chemically intensive recycling process produces plenty of its own hazardous waste. And the closed fuel cycle also would establish a global market for plutonium, the stuff of atomic weapons, raising proliferation concerns. Perhaps most important, the world is in no danger of running out of uranium. So some experts doubt fast reactors will ever become mainstream.

February 23, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion: American Association for the Advancement of Science deceived by ITER propagandists

ITER Promoters Pull Wool Over Eyes of AAAS 14, 2019 – By Steven B. Krivit –

Three of the four panelists who will speak on Friday, Feb. 15, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting have contributed to the worldwide misrepresentation of the mission and design of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The panelists will be part of a workshop that is financially sponsored by the ITER Organization.

One of the panelists will be science journalist Daniel Clery, who works for the Association’s magazine Science. Clery has, almost certainly unknowingly, helped promote the ITER fusion deception, now in its second decade. Hiding the power that the ITER reactor is designed to use and employing deceptive wording, fusion representatives have greatly exaggerated the expected power output of the reactor. In order to produce fusion particles of 500 MW, according to its design, ITER will require at least 300 MW of electricity. That’s not what Clery told readers in his Nov. 19, 2015, article in Science:

The ITER project aims to show that nuclear fusion—the power source of the sun and stars—is technically feasible as a source of energy. Despite more than 60 years of work, researchers have failed to achieve a fusion reaction that produces more energy than it consumes. ITER, with a doughnut-shaped “tokamak ” reaction chamber able to contain 840 cubic meters of superheated hydrogen gas, or plasma, is the biggest attempt so far and is predicted to produce at least 500 megawatts of power from a 50 megawatt input.

Clery has a degree in theoretical physics. Either the ITER promoters fooled him, or he was an active participant in the deception. Neither option is favorable for Clery. In either case, he certainly was not alone.

Fusion representatives have also misled the public into thinking that the reactor is designed for a specific overall power gain when, in fact, the expected gain applies to only one part of the reactor: the plasma heating system. But nowhere in his article does Clery inform readers that his comparison of 500 MW out and 50 MW in applies only to the plasma. Nowhere in his article does he explain to readers that his 500/50 comparison did not apply to the overall reactor. Nowhere in his article does he explain to readers that the reactor, to get 500 MW out, will require 300 MW in.

To the contrary, everything about Clery’s article was written as if he intended to communicate to readers that the overall reactor is designed for a 500 MW output with only a 50 MW input.

Despite all of this, Clery has a tiny bit of wiggle room to claim that he was not deceived. He could say that, because his paragraph uses the phrase “a fusion reaction,” it provides evidence that he knew that the 500/50 values applied only to the plasma, not to the overall reactor. But that would create an even greater problem for Clery: All other statements he made in his article create a false impression about the mission and design capacity of the reactor.

Clery’s article perpetuated the three false and misleading claims about ITER: 1) The ITER reactor, as a system, is designed to produce 500 MW of net thermal power, 2) The ITER reactor is designed to consume only 50 MW of power, and 3) The ITER reactor, as a system, is designed to produce 10 times the power it is designed to consume.

Another presenter at the Friday workshop will be Bernard Bigot, the director-general of the ITER Organization. Bigot holds the ultimate responsibility for the false and misleading claims on the ITER Organization Web site, some of which he has corrected since New Energy Times began publishing the results of this long-running investigation. Last year, Bigot used misleading language to create false impressions about ITER and the JET reactor, its predecessor, while testifying before Congress. The ITER Organization corrected more of the false statements on its Web site less than 24 hours after New Energy Times published a report on Bigot’s testimony.

Another panelist at the ITER-sponsored AAAS workshop will be Ned Sauthoff, the director of the U.S. ITER project office at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Sauthoff, as a video recording of a 2014 congressional hearing shows, successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of members of Congress. More news on that story is on the way.

The fourth panelist will be Mickey Wade, the director of Advanced Fusion Systems at General Atomics, an ITER component supplier. In his congressional testimony last year, Wade was the only witness on that panel to accurately and honestly report ITER’s primary mission and design.

“ITER’s primary technical goal is to produce plasmas that produce 10 times more fusion power than is being injected into the plasma from external means,” Wade said.

The AAAS board of directors includes Steven Chu, a former United States Secretary of Energy and current member of the board of advisors for energy research company First Light Fusion. That company published deceptive fusion power claims in a Feb. 12, 2019, press release.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster, technology | 1 Comment

U.S. Congress needs to look hard at the rationale for a fast reactor program.


Are Washington’s ‘Advanced’ Reactors a Nuclear Waste?
Congress needs to look hard at the rationale for a fast reactor program., 
by Victor Gilinsky Henry Sokolski

Late last year, the Energy Department (DOE), began work on a new flagship nuclear project, the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR), a sodium-cooled fast reactor. If completed, the project will dominate nuclear power research at DOE. The department’s objective is to provide the groundwork for building lots of fast-power reactors. This was a dream of the old Atomic Energy Commission, DOE’s predecessor agency. The dream is back. But before this goes any further, Congress needs to ask, what is the question to which the VTR is the answer? It won’t be cheap and there are some serious drawbacks in cost, safety, but mainly in its effect on nonproliferation.

Congress has to ask hard questions: Is there an economic advantage to such reactors? Or one in safety? Or is it just what nuclear engineers, national laboratories, and subsidy-hungry firms would like to do?

The answer of DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, which would operate the reactor, is cast in terms of engineering and patriotic goals, not economic ones: “US technological leadership in the area of fast reactor systems . . . is critical for our national security. These systems are likely to be deployed around the globe and U.S. leadership in associated safety and security policies is in our best national interest.” In other words, we need to build fast reactors because DOE thinks other people will be building them, and we need to stay ahead.

In the 1960s, when the Atomic Energy Commission concentrated on fast reactors (“fast” because they don’t use a moderator to slow down neutrons in the reactor core), it argued with a certain plausibility that uranium ore was too scarce to provide fuel for large numbers of conventional light-water reactors that “burned” only a couple percent of their uranium fuel. Fast reactors offered the possibility, at least in principle, of using essentially all of the mined uranium as fuel, and thus vastly expanding the fuel supply. To do this you operate them as breeder reactors—making more fuel (that is, using excess neutrons available in fast reactors to convert inert uranium to plutonium) than they consume to produce energy. The possibility of doing so is the principal advantage of fast reactors.

But we then learned there are vast deposits of uranium worldwide, and at the same time many fewer nuclear reactors were installed than were originally projected, so there is no foreseeable fuel shortage. Not only that, the reprocessing of fuel, which is intrinsic to fast reactor operation, has turned out to be vastly more expensive than projected. Finally, by all accounts fast reactors would be more expensive to build than conventional ones, the cost of which is already out of sight. In short, there is no economic argument for building fast reactors.

When it comes to safety, sodium-cooled fast reactors operate under low pressure, which is an advantage. But fast reactors are worrisome because, whereas a change in the configuration of a conventional nuclear core—say, squeezing it tighter—makes it less reactive, the corresponding result in a fast reactor is to make it more reactive, potentially leading to an uncontrolled chain reaction.

With regard to nonproliferation, the issue that mainly concerns us is that the fast reactor fuel cycle depends on reprocessing and recycling of its plutonium fuel (or uranium 233 if using thorium instead of uranium). Both plutonium and uranium 233 are nuclear explosives. Widespread use of fast reactors for electricity generation implies large quantities of nuclear explosives moving through commercial channels. It will not be possible to restrict such use to a small number of countries. The consequent proliferation dangers are obvious. And while it is doubtful the U.S. fast reactor project will lead to commercial exploitation—few, if any, projects from DOE ever do—U.S. pursuit of this technology would encourage other countries interested in this technology, like Japan and South Korea, to do so.

One should add that one of the claims of enthusiasts for recycling spent fuel in fast reactors is that it permits simpler waste management. This is a complicated issue, but the short answer is that rather than simplifying, reprocessing and recycling complicate the waste disposal process.

With all these concerns, and the lack of a valid economic benefit, why does the Energy Department want to start an “aggressive” and expensive program of fast reactor development? It’s true that so far only exploratory contracts have been let, on the order of millions of dollars (to GE-Hitachi). But the Department is already leaning awfully far forward in pursuing the VTR. It estimates the total cost to be about $2 billion, but that’s in DOE-speak. We’ve learned that translates into several times that amount.

But beyond that, the nuclear engineering community, and the wider community of nuclear enthusiasts, have never given up the 1960s AEC dream of a fast breeder-driven, plutonium-fueled world. Such reactors were to have been deployed by 1980 and were to take over electricity generation by 2000. It didn’t even get off the ground, in part because of AEC managerial incompetence, but mainly because it didn’t make sense.

After the 1974 Indian nuclear explosion and the realization that any country with a small reactor and a way to separate a few kilograms of plutonium could make a bomb, proliferation became a serious issue. In 1976 President Gerald Ford announced that we should not rely on plutonium until the world could reliably control its dangers as a bomb material. The plutonium devotees never accepted this change. Jimmy Carter froze construction of an ongoing fast-breeder prototype, the Clinch River Reactor, about three time the size of the proposed VTR. Ronald Reagan tried to revive it but, as its rationale thinned and its cost mounted, Congress shut it down in 1983. The plutonium enthusiasts thought they got their chance under George W. Bush with a fast reactor and a reprocessing and recycling program under of the rubric of Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. But it was so poorly thought out it didn’t go anywhere. More or less the same laboratory participants are now pushing the VTR.

The DOE advanced reactor program has many irons in the fire, mostly in the small reactor category. But do not be misled. They are mostly small potatoes without much future. Only the fast reactor project is the real thing, bureaucratically, that is. Although at this point DOE has only contracted for conceptual design, the follow-up will cost many millions and take many years. Nothing attracts national laboratories, industrial firms, and Washington bureaucracies as much as the possibility of locking into a large multiyear source of funding.

Congress needs to look hard at the rationale for a fast reactor program. This means getting into the details. At a Senate Appropriations hearing last month on advanced reactors, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said rather plaintively, “We cast the votes, and cross our fingers hoping nothing bad will happen.” That’s not good enough.

Victor Gilinsky is program advisor for the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) in Arlington, Virginia. He served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Henry Sokolski is executive director of NPEC and the author of Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future (second edition 2019). He served as deputy for nonproliferation policy in the office of the U.S. secretary of defense in the Cheney Pentagon.

February 11, 2019 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project an example of the folly of nuclear reprocessing

The rise and demise of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Henry Sokolski, February 6, 2019 This year marks the 36th anniversary of the termination of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project, a federally funded commercial demonstration effort. In the very early 1980s, it was the largest public-works project in the United States. Japan, South Korea, China, France, Russia, and the United States are now all again considering building similar plants. For each, how and why Clinch River was launched and killed is a history that speaks to their nuclear future. This history involves more than cost benefit analysis. For the public and political leadership, facts and arguments rarely close an initial sale of a large government-funded, high-tech commercialization program. Nor do they generally goad officials to abandon such projects. Such acts are fundamentally political: Fears and hopes drive them. Certainly, to understand why the US government launched and subsequently killed Clinch River requires knowledge not just of what the public and its political leadership thought, but also of how they felt.

Unwarranted fears of uranium’s scarcity fueled interest in fast-breeder reactors. …….in 1945, uranium 235, a fissile uranium isotope that can readily sustain a chain reaction, was believed to be so scarce, it was assumed there was not enough of it to produce nuclear electricity on a large scale. Scientists saw the answer in fast-breeder reactors………

The Atomic Energy Commission publicly promoted their commercialization with confident, cartoonish optimism. In one publication, the commission asked the upbeat question: “Johnny had three truckloads of plutonium. He used three of them to power New York for a year. How much plutonium did Johnny have left?” The answer: “Four truckloads.”

Unfortunately, this pitch glossed over two stubborn facts. First, because plutonium is so much more toxic and difficult to handle than uranium, it is many times more expensive to use as a reactor fuel than using fresh uranium. Second, because plutonium fast-breeder reactors use liquid metal coolants, such as liquid sodium, operating them safely is far more challenging and expensive than conventional reactors.

When private industry tried in the early 1960s to operate its own commercial-sized fast-breeder, Fermi I, the benefits were negative. Barely three years after Fermi 1 came online, a partial fuel meltdown in 1966 brought it down. It eventually resumed operations before being officially shut down in 1972.

These facts, however, are rarely emphasized. Those backing breeders—whether it be in 1945, 1975, or today—focus not on reliability and economics, but rather that we are about to run out of affordable uranium. For the moment, of course, we are not. Uranium is plentiful and cheap as is enriching it. This helps explain why the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States, no longer operate any commercial-sized fast-breeder reactors and are in no immediate rush to build new ones………

When the Atomic Energy Commission argued the case for building a breeder reactor in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it projected 1,000 reactors would be on line in the United States by the year 2000 (the real number turned out to be 103) and that the United States would soon run out of affordable uranium. Also, by the mid-1960s, the commission needed a new, massive project to justify its continued existence. Its key mission, to enrich uranium for bombs and reactors, had been completed and was overbuilt. The commission was running out of construction and research projects commensurate with its large budget. A breeder-reactor- commercialization program with all the reprocessing, fuel testing, and fuel fabrication plants that would go with it, seemed a worthy successor.

But the most powerful political supporter of Clinch River, then-President Richard Nixon, focused on a different point. Nixon saw the project less as a commercial proposition than as a way to demonstrate his power to secure more votes by providing government-funded jobs while at the same time affirming his commitment to big-science, engineering, and progress……….

the Energy Department videotaped safety tests it had conducted of how molten sodium might react once it came in contact with the reactor’s concrete containment structure. Concrete contains water crystals. Molten sodium reacts explosively when it comes in contact with oxygen, including oxygen contained in water. What the test demonstrated and the video showed was concrete exploding when it came in contact with liquid sodium.

This set off waves of worry at the department………

Just weeks before the final vote, the Congressional Budget Office released its financial assessment of the Energy Department’s last ditch effort to use loan guarantees to fund the project. Even under the most conservative assumptions, the budget analysts determined that the loan guarantees would only increase the project’s final costs. This helped push the project over a political cliff. The final Senate vote: 56 against, 40 for. All of the 16 deciding votes came from former Clinch River supporters.

No commercial prospects? Militarize. Nixon backed numerous science commercialization projects like Clinch River, including the Space Shuttle Program and the supersonic transport plane……… While the Space Shuttle Program won congressional support, the envisioned satellite contracts never materialized. The program became heavily dependent on military contracts. Finally, our national security depended upon it.

Although Clinch River never was completed, as its costs spiraled, it too attracted military attention. …….

Essentially, it didn’t matter when you asked–1971 or 1983—Clinch River was always another seven years and at least another $2.1 billion away from completion. ……

With Clinch River, what we now know, we may yet repeat. Fast-reactor commercialization projects and support efforts, such as Argonne National Laboratory’s Small Modular Fast Reactor, the US-South Korean Pyroreprocessing effort, the Energy Department’s Virtual (Fast) Test Reactor, France’s Astrid Fast Reactor Project, the PRISM Reactor, the TerraPower Traveling Wave reactor, India’s thorium breeder, Russia’s BN-1200, China’s Demonstration Fast-Breeder Reactor, continue to capture the attention and support of energy officials in Japan, China, Russia, South Korea, France, the US, and India. None of these countries have yet completely locked in their decisions. How sound their final choices turn out to be, will ultimately speak to these governments’ credibility and legitimacy.

In the case of Clinch River, the decision to launch the program ultimately rested on a cynical set of political calculations alloyed to an ideological faith in fast reactors and the future of the “plutonium economy.” Supporters saw this future clearly. As a nuclear engineer explained to me in 1981 at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the United States technically could build enough breeder reactors to keep the country electrically powered for hundreds of years without using any more oil, coal, or uranium. When I asked him, though, who would pay for this, he simply snapped that only fools let economics get in the way of the future.

This argument suggests that the case for fast reactors is beyond calculation or debate, something mandatory and urgent. That, however, never was the case, nor is it now. Instead, the equitable distribution of goods, which is a key metric of both economic and governmental performance (and ultimately of any government’s legitimacy and viability), has always taken and always must take costs into account. In this regard, we can only hope that remembering how and why Clinch River was launched and killed will help get this accounting right for similar such high-tech commercialization projects now and in the future. https://thebulletin. org/2019/02/the-rise-and- demise-of-the-clinch-river- breeder-reactor/?utm_source= Bulletin%20Newsletter&utm_ medium=iContact%20email&utm_ campaign=ClinchRiver_February6


February 11, 2019 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Sending dummies into space, to test effects of radiation on women

Radiation for dummies, Space Daily, by Staff Writers, Paris (ESA) Jan 28, 2019  Meet Helga and Zohar, the dummies destined for a pioneering lunar flyby to help protect space travelers from cosmic rays and energetic solar storms.

These two female phantoms will occupy the passenger seats during Orion’s first mission around the Moon, going further than any human has flown before.

Fitted with more than 5600 sensors, the pair will measure the amount of radiation astronauts could be exposed to in future missions with unprecedented precision.

The flight test will take place during NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, an uncrewed trip to the vicinity of the Moon and back to Earth.

Radiation poses a major health risk to people in space. Astronauts on the International Space Station receive doses 250 higher than on Earth. Away from Earth’s magnetic field and into interplanetary space, the impact on the human body could be much higher – up to 700 times more.

Two sources of radiation are of concern: galactic cosmic radiation and virulent solar particle events. This radiation could increase the crew’s risk of cancer and become a limiting factor in missions to the Moon and Mars.

Helga and Zohar
The two phantoms simulate adult female torsos. Both Helga and Zohar are made up of 38 slices of tissue-equivalent plastics that mimic the varying density of bones, soft tissue and lungs. Similar dummies are used in hospitals to quantify the right dose of radiation for cancer therapies.

“We chose female phantoms because the number of women astronauts is increasing, and also because the female body is typically more vulnerable to radiation,” explains Thomas Berger, lead scientist of the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE) at the German Aerospace Center, DLR.

Sensors have been fitted in the most radiation-sensitive areas of the body – lungs, stomach, uterus and bone marrow. While thousands of passive dosimeters will record the radiation dose from launch until return to Earth, a set of 16 active detectors will map the radiation dose both on the phantoms’ skin and internal organs during flight.

An astronaut’s shield

The only difference between the twin dummies is that Zohar will be wearing a radiation protection vest, while Helga will travel unprotected from spaceborne radiation……..


February 4, 2019 Posted by | radiation, technology, women | Leave a comment

Clean-up of molten salt nuclear reactor continuing – new plan to reduce the costs

Crews start project to reduce maintenance, operations costs at Molten Salt Reactor, Oak Ridge Today, JANUARY 22, 2019, BY JOHN HUOTARI Cleanup crews started a $4.7 million project this month to reduce maintenance and operations costs at the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, which was shut down 50 years ago at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.The project is expected to save nearly $25 million in costs, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management said in an “EM Update” published Tuesday.

The cost-reduction project will relocate employees stationed at the decades-old facility. Personnel currently housed in the building will move to other site locations to help with other projects, the “EM Update” said……..

The Molten Salt Reactor Experiment operated for only four years in the 1960s,  …….

Oak Ridge Today reported in November 2017 that DOE was, at the time, studying whether to entomb parts of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment. Those parts were reported to be too radioactively “hot” for humans. The current status of the entombment proposal wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday evening.

In 2017, Jay Mullis, manager of the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, said most of the fuel at the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, a unique reactor that operated from June 1965 to December 1969, was removed about 10 years ago. That included uranium, plutonium, and some uranium-233.

Oak Ridge Today reported at that time that some residual fuel and fission products remained, including cesium and strontium.

The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management has previously estimated the cost of removing the salt from the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment and disposing of it at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico at between $150 million to $200 million. It’s not clear if that estimate has changed.

In the meantime, several million dollars has been spent each year on surveillance and maintenance at the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment and liquid and gaseous waste operations at ORNL, including at what are known as “hot cells,” and costs were expected to increase. Federal officials had asked for $12 million for those surveillance and maintenance operations in fiscal year 2019, the current fiscal year. Oak Ridge Today did not immediately have information on Tuesday about what amount was actually appropriated.

In 2017, Mullis said the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, which had a control room and reactor room, is degrading…….

February 2, 2019 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Tax-payer funding for yet another nuclear folly? Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactors

Rolls-Royce seeks government funds for nuclear power project  Group wants £200m to develop small-scale plants after failure of big schemes   and – 27 Jan 19

 A consortium led by Rolls-Royce has asked for more than £200m in government funding to help develop its project for small nuclear reactors, as ministers scramble to recast Britain’s energy policy after the collapse of plans to build several large reactors. The engineering group and its partners, which include Laing O’Rourke and Arup, want to secure a sum “in the low hundreds of millions”, confirmed one person with knowledge of the request. Any amount would be match-funded by the consortium and be used to develop Rolls-Royce’s technology through to the later stages of the licensing process in order to be able to attract private investment.

 Supporters of small modular reactors — most of which will not be commercial until the 2030s — argue that they can deliver nuclear power at lower cost and reduced risk. They will draw on modular manufacturing techniques that will reduce construction risk, which has plagued larger-scale projects.

The consortium has applied for funding from the government’s industrial strategy challenge fund under UK Research and Innovation. The money would enable the group to develop its design through to the later stages of the “generic design assessment” by the industry regulator. Industry sources with knowledge of the bid said the consortium “entered detailed negotiations” with UKRI before Christmas. Rolls-Royce has previously said it believes its reactor would cost about £2.5bn to build.

 The push comes as the UK’s long-term energy policy has been thrown into chaos by the collapse of three new nuclear projects, after Hitachi’s decision earlier this month to freeze its involvement in the Wylfa plant in north Wales.
More than 40 per cent of the UK’s planned new nuclear capacity has in effect been cancelled, with Toshiba pulling out of developing a plant in Cumbria last year, while Hitachi has scrapped plans for another plant in Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire. The UK government said it remained committed to developing nuclear plants with the private sector but has baulked at the cost and level of support investors have demanded. It is due to publish a white paper this summer that will overhaul its energy strategy. While nuclear is expected to remain part of the mix, the government is keen to examine new funding models and approaches.
Business secretary Greg Clark said in a letter to the Financial Times last week that “small modular reactors can have a role to play” but again cautioned these plans could not be “at any price”. Rolls-Royce and its team is one of several consortiums that bid in a government-sponsored competition launched in 2015 to find the most viable technology for a new generation of small nuclear power plants. However, when a nuclear sector deal was finally unveiled last June, the government allocated funding only for more advanced modular reactors.
 SMR’s, which typically use water-cooled reactors similar to existing nuclear power stations, were omitted from funding even though they were closer to becoming commercial.
 Rolls-Royce threatened last summer that it would shut down the project if there was no meaningful support from the government. It has already significantly reduced the number of staff working on the project. The business department said the government was “considering” a funding bid from a UK consortium to support research and development of a low-cost SMR”. A decision was expected “in spring 2019”. Rolls-Royce said: “Our consortium is in discussions with UK government officials that we hope could result in a significant joint investment in our power plant design.”

January 28, 2019 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | 1 Comment

UK: Rolls Royce has mothballed its plans for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Evening Standard 22nd Jan 2019 The British nuclear industry is a mess. Successive governments spent 13 years devising a nuclear policy, and after years of debate, six nuclear power stations were eventually selected. The idea was that private contractors, not government, should take the risk and build the plants. But the contractors were wary, and with the collapse of renewable energy prices they have become warier still.
Of the six sites, three have been abandoned, two — Sizewell and Bradwell in Suffolk and Essex — are still to be finalised. Only one, Hinkley Point C in Somerset is proceeding and it is controversial to say the least. Chances are that Hinkley will be abandoned
and we won’t build any more giant plants, but Government is still wedded to its policy so it may take a few years, or a general election.
The cost of renewable energy is, however, coming down fast and environmentalists say new electricity storage systems still to be developed will eventually bridge the gap for when the wind does not blow enough. We are not there yet though. But there is another option, though not one which environmentalists favour, and that is small modular reactors. Rolls-Royce has been making and
maintaining the power plants which drive the nuclear-powered submarines
carrying Britain’s nuclear deterrent since at least the Sixties.
 SMRs required Government to make available resources so the licensing and safety-assessment programme could
run smoothly and remove the risk of the whole thing being endlessly delayed. It required further long-term thinking in the form of a promise to buy at least seven of the plants so that Rolls-Royce could capture the economies of scale in manufacturing which are essential to bringing the costs down. It required Government to be willing to provide matched funding in the development phase of the project. And finally it required Government support to assist the company in fully developing its export markets.
Needless to say the Government has declined to do this and Rolls-Royce as a result is no longer speculatively prepared to pour in its own funds and has mothballed the project. So the chances are that we will not have small nuclear reactors either, other than in our submarines.

January 24, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Why don’t airplanes run on nuclear power?

Why There Are No Nuclear Airplanes Strategists considered sacrificing older pilots to patrol the skies in flying reactors. An Object Lesson. The Atlantic, 20 Jan 19 CHRISTIAN RUHL

“……….. Why don’t airplanes run on nuclear power?

The reasons are many. Making a nuclear reactor flightworthy is difficult. Shielding it from spewing dangerous radiation into the bodies of its crew might be impossible. During the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear apocalypse led to surprisingly pragmatic plans, engineers proposed to solve the problem by hiring elderly Air Force crews to pilot the hypothetical nuclear planes, because they would die before radiation exposure gave them fatal cancers.

The Italian American physicist Enrico Fermi had introduced the idea of nuclear flight as early as 1942, while serving on the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. As World War II drew to a close, the United States began work to realize Fermi’s dream of nuclear-powered flight. From 1946 until 1961, vast teams of engineers, strategists, and administrators toiled in a whirl of blueprints, white papers, and green bills in an attempt to get the idea off the ground.

The advantages of nuclear-powered airplanes mirrored those of nuclear submarines. Nuclear submarines did not need to surface for fuel, and nuclear airplanes would not need to land. A 1945 proposal at the Department of War (now the Department of Defense) promised, “With nuclear propulsion, supersonic flight around the world becomes an immediate possibility.” A secret Atomic Energy Commission memorandum now held in the Eisenhower Presidential Library explained the promise of nuclear flight in a more measured tone. Nuclear energy “should make possible ranges of one or more times around the world with a single loading of the reactor.” The idea of a nuclear-powered bomber became a strategic dream for the military; it could stay aloft for days to cover any number of targets throughout the world, before returning to the United States without refueling………

 nuclear power came with its own problems. The reactor would have to be small enough to fit onto an aircraft, which meant it would release far more heat than a standard one. The heat could risk melting the reactor—and the plane along with it, sending a radioactive hunk of liquid metal careening toward Earth.

The problem of shielding pilots from the reactor’s radiation proved even more difficult. What good would a plane be that killed its own pilots?

To protect the crew from radioactivity, the reactor needed thick and heavy layers of shielding. But to take off, the plane needed to be as light as possible. Adequate shielding seemed incompatible with flight.

Still, engineers theorized that the weight saved from needing no fuel might be enough to offset the reactor and its shielding. The United States spent 16 years tinkering with the idea, to no avail. The Soviet Union pursued nuclear aircraft propulsion too, running up against the same problems.

……The nuclear airplane became redundant from a military point of view, as ICBMs avoided the problems of manned nuclear flight.

…….In a last-ditch effort to keep the nuclear airplane on the table, military strategists considered a radical solution: They could use pilots closer to death. The Air Force would use crews old enough to die of natural causes before the harmful effects of radiation could show up and thus, the logic went, sidestep the shielding problem. As the nuclear-policy expert Leonard Weiss explained in an article for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the proposal would have made radiation shielding unnecessary and decreased the weight of the plane significantly. It might have let the nuclear airplane take flight.

………Even that shocking proposal failed to save the nuclear airplane. The Eisenhower administration concluded that the program was unnecessary, dangerous, and too expensive. On March 28, 1961, the newly inaugurated President John F. Kennedy canceled the program. Proposals for nuclear-powered airplanes have popped up since then, but the fear of radiation and the lack of funding have kept all such ideas down……….

January 21, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

Space travel? The human body is not compatible with ionising radiation

From Radiation to Isolation: 5 Big Risks for Mars Astronauts (Videos)

Even astronauts who live on the International Space Station, which sits inside Earth’s protective magnetic field, are exposed to 10 times the radiation they would if they were back on Earth, NASA officials said in a statement and series of videos from the agency’s Human Research Program.

Anyone who traveled through deep space would be at much greater risk from radiation exposure. Outside of Earth’s protective shield, radiation can increase cancer risk and damage a person’s central nervous system (which would cause altered cognitive function, reduced motor function and behavioral changes), NASA’s Human Research Program said. Other dangers of being exposed to such high radiation include nausea, vomiting, anorexia, fatigue, cataracts, cardiac disease and circulatory disease. …….

January 10, 2019 Posted by | space travel | Leave a comment

New nuclear technology is NOT a solution to climate change

Debate Continues: Can New Technology Save Nuclear Power?   Power, 01/01/2019 | Kennedy Maize.………Are advanced nuclear reactor designs the answer to the decades-long doldrums for nuclear power? For the U.S., a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel led by long-time nuclear advocate M. Granger Morgan of Carnegie Mellon University, issued a pessimistic report last July—US nuclear power: The vanishing low-carbon wedge.

The academy’s report found, “While advanced reactor designs are sometimes held up as a potential solution to nuclear power’s challenges, our assessment of the advanced fission enterprise suggests that no US design will be commercialized before midcentury.” That’s a chilling indictment for all advanced LWRs. The crux of the Morgan report is an assessment that the economic hurdles for nuclear in the U.S. are insurmountable.………

Peter Bradford, a veteran electric utility regulator and nuclear skeptic who served on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from 1977 to 1982, agrees that nuclear power in the U.S. is priced out of the market. “Even if, for once, they could contain or level out the costs,” he told POWER, “new nuclear is so far outside the competitive range. They have to cut costs and they can’t cut costs without building a bunch [of reactors]. That really isn’t in the cards.”

Nor does Bradford see new nuclear as a way to combat global warming. “Even if it is scaled up much faster than anything now in prospect, it cannot provide more than 10% to 15% of the greenhouse gas displacement that is likely to be needed by mid-century. Not only can nuclear power not stop global warming, it is probably not even an essential part of the solution to global warming,” he wrote in 2006. Since then, he argues, the declining costs of renewables and energy efficiency swamp nuclear economics even further.

While advocates call for setting a price on carbon to reward carbon-free generation, Bradford said that is a weak reed. “At any given level” of carbon prices, he said, “it is going to wind up benefiting renewables and storage,” not nuclear. A reasonable carbon price, he argued, “might not be enough to keep existing plants running.”

SMRs to the Rescue?…. 

while smaller nuclear reactors are an appealing technological approach to keeping nuclear in the generating mix, they come with their own set of problems.

On closer inspection, said the NAS panel, “Our results reveal that while one light water SMR module would indeed cost much less than a large LWR, it is highly likely that the cost per unit of power will be higher. In other words, light water SMRs do make nuclear power more affordable but not necessarily more economically competitive for power generation.”

Given the “economic premium” of SMRs, along with “the considerable regulatory burden associated with any nuclear reactor, we do not see a clear path forward for the United States to deploy sufficient numbers of SMRs in the electric power sector to make a significant contribution to greenhouse gas mitigation by the middle of this century,” the report says. Economist Kee echoed that conclusion. When it comes to SMRs, he said there “is a lot of work to do and not much time to do it.”

SMRs also face a challenge of demonstrating their viability: Making an economic or climate impact requires many reactors. Neil Alexander, a Canadian nuclear consultant, wrote recently, “Everything about SMRs such as the cost of construction, availability of fuel, cost of shared services, availability of trained operators, and cost of research needed to resolve emerging challenges, only work economically when the unit is in a fleet. A FOAK [first-of-a-kind] cannot stand alone and the barrier to entry that the industry faces is more akin to the ‘First Dozen of a Kind.’ ”

Portland, Oregon-based NuScale appears to be the leader in developing SMR technology (Figure 4 on original). It is taking Alexander’s advice. NuScale has a customer for a 12-unit (720-MW) station: Utah Associated Municipal Power System (UAMPS), which has a site at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho National Laboratory (INL). UAMPS will own the project and Energy Northwest, a municipal joint action agency that operates the Columbia nuclear station near Richland, Washington, will run the plant. Columbia is a 1,100-MW boiling water reactor.

NuScale recently selected BWX Technologies (BWXT) of Lynchburg, Virginia, to begin engineering work leading up to the manufacture of the 60-MW NuScale reactors. BWXT, created after reactor builder Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) emerged from bankruptcy in 2006, has deep experience in the U.S. naval reactor program. NuScale has received a commitment of some $200 million from the DOE. Global engineering firm Fluor Corp. is the majority investor in NuScale.

Ironically, BWXT was the early leader in the SMR race, with its 195-MW mPower pressurized water reactor design. After spending some $400 million on the mPower venture (including $100 million from the DOE), B&W declared it officially dead in March 2017. Rod Adams, who worked on the project for B&W, had this epitaph for the mPower project, “There was simply too much work left to do, too much money left to invest, and an insufficient level of interest in the product to allow continued expenditures to clear corporate decision hurdles.”

NuScale still has a long way to go to demonstrate the validity of its SMR. The company said it expects the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will approve the NuScale reactor design in September 2020. UAMPS will also have to get NRC approval for a combined construction and operating license for the site at INL. Nonetheless, NuScale’s optimistic schedule projects commercial operation “by the mid-2020s.”

Past experience suggests that nuclear construction schedules are made to be broken. SMRs pose unique challenges to federal regulators, both in the reactor designs and in operational issues such as staffing levels and communications among 12 discrete units, particularly if they are used to follow load. Additionally, power prices in the Western U.S. are already low and natural gas is driving them lower.

Recognizing the challenges to deploying SMRs, the DOE in November issued a report suggesting state standards and incentives, modeled on those boosting renewables, be applied to SMR technology. But, as POWER reported, “To make a meaningful impact, nearly $10 billion in incentives would be needed to deploy 6 GW of SMR capacity by 2035.”

Beyond the LWR?

Several efforts are in place to replace conventional LWRs with other approaches to splitting atoms to generate power. Admittedly longshots, these build-on technologies go back to the early days of civilian nuclear power, and were previously abandoned in favor of the proven LWR designs.

The highest profile of the LWR apostates is TerraPower, based in Bellevue, Washington, and backed by Microsoft founder and multi-billionaire Bill Gates. [ Ed note: TerraPower has now abandoned this joint project with China] Founded in 2006, TerraPower is working on a liquid-sodium-cooled breeder-burner machine that can run on uranium waste, while it generates power and plutonium, with the plutonium used to generate more power, all in a continuous process.

Liquid sodium has advantages over pressurized water as a coolant, including better heat transfer. It also does not act as a moderator to slow neutrons, which allows for breeding plutonium. Sodium coolant has its own set of problems. Sodium catches fire when exposed to oxygen so coolant leaks can be devastating, as has happened in the past.

Nuclear power father Adm. Hyman Rickover, after a bad experience with the Seawolf-class submarine sodium-cooled reactor—the second subs to use LWR technology after the USS Nautilus—commented that sodium-cooled systems were “expensive to build, complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdown as a result of even minor malfunctions, and difficult and time-consuming to repair.” TerraPower hopes to have commercial machines operating in the late 2020s, but industry insiders have reported that the company’s prototype reactor being built in China has experienced major problems.

Another approach to bypass LWRs is the molten salt reactor, long a favorite of nuclear pioneer Alvin Weinberg. A Canadian firm, Terrestrial Energy, is pushing a 190-MW SMR design using the technology Weinberg developed at Oak Ridge National Lab in the mid-1960s. Molten salt technology operates at close to atmospheric temperature and combines the fuel and the coolant. Terrestrial plans to use the technology to power an SMR, with a target date for the late 2020s. Molten salt poses new engineering challenges for nuclear reactors. One nuclear observer commented, “I prefer solid fuel” to the liquid fuel-coolant in the molten salt reactor.

Finally, developers are looking at abandoning uranium as the primary nuclear fuel. Instead, the idea is to use thorium, one of the most-common elements on the planet. Thorium is a slightly radioactive metal. But thorium is not fissile—able to undergo nuclear fission—so it has to be irradiated with enriched uranium in order to be transmuted into fissile U-233.

Thorium’s chief attribute is that the fuel is so plentiful. Terrestrial Energy has shown interest in using thorium in its molten salt reactors, along with low-enriched uranium that is used in the design it is pursuing in Canada. Skeptics suggest that thorium is an answer in search of a question, given the easy availability of uranium, particularly in seawater. Uranium shortages, forecast in the 1960s when advocates first suggested using thorium, have never materialized.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is currently wrapping up a study of the new, non-LWR reactor designs. Physicist Ed Lyman, a veteran UCS staffer, told POWER, “Our overall conclusion is that vendors, DOE, and advocates are greatly exaggerating the benefits” of the technologies. “The whole landscape is not compelling. We question whether the best direction for nuclear power is to go off on these more exotic tangents,” rather than focus on making LWRs cheaper and safer. “That’s potentially a better near term” investment, he said.

The original generations of civilian nuclear power failed to live up to their promises. The U.S. nuclear industry stalled in the mid-1970s and has not recovered, despite repeated government and industry attempts at a restart.

Gen III reactors were aimed at overcoming the perceived safety and economic shortcomings of the original machines. As those new designs appear to be falling short, attention has shifted to SMRs or new approaches that abandon traditional light-water technology. Whether they will live up to their billing remains a serious, open question. ■

Kennedy Maize is a long-time energy journalist and frequent contributor to POWER. 


January 5, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Reference, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Los Alamos National Lab’s plan for deep nuclear tunnelling underground or undersea

December 31, 2018 Posted by | technology, USA | 1 Comment

NASA plans to find ALIENS near Jupiter using NUCLEAR powered drill


NASA has proposed a plan to use a nuclear-powered drill to dig into the surface of a moon in an attempt to find aliens By FREDDIE JORDAN, Express UK   Dec 19, 2018 The drill, nicknamed ‘tunnelbot’, would hunt beneath the ice that covers the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa in an effort to confirm suspicions of alien life lurking in the depths. Scientists have long known of the presence of large quantities of water hidden below the moon’s icy crust – but it has been difficult to reach. A proposal given at the 2018 meeting of the Geophysical Union said: “We have performed a concept study for a nuclear powered tunnelling probe (a tunnelbot) that can traverse through the ice shell and reach the ocean, carrying a payload that can search for nested, corroborative evidence for extant/extinct life.

“The tunnelbot would also assess the habitability of the ice shell and underlying ocean.

“How initial deployment on the surface would occur was not addressed and remains a challenge for future work.” The machine would use the heat expelled by the nuclear reactor to melt its way through the ice……

December 20, 2018 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Britain’s nuclear nightmare -the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant

UK’s dream is now its nuclear nightmare 14, 2018, by Paul Brown 

Nobody knows what to do with a vast uranium and plutonium stockpile built up in the UK by reprocessing spent fuel. It is now a nuclear nightmare.

LONDON, 14 December, 2018 − Thirty years ago it seemed like a dream: now it is a nuclear nightmare. A project presented to the world in the 1990s by the UK government as a £2.85 billion triumph of British engineering, capable of recycling thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel into reusable uranium and plutonium is shutting down – with its role still controversial.

Launched amid fears of future uranium shortages and plans to use the plutonium produced from the plant to feed a generation of fast breeder reactors, the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant, known as THORP, was thought to herald a rapid expansion of the industry.

In the event there were no uranium shortages, fast breeder reactors could not be made to work, and nuclear new build of all kinds stalled. Despite this THORP continued as if nothing had happened, recycling thousands of tons of uranium and producing 56 tons of plutonium that no one wants. The plutonium, once the world’s most valuable commodity, is now classed in Britain as “an asset of zero value.” Continue reading

December 17, 2018 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, UK, wastes | 2 Comments